Ben Simmons Addresses Criticism, Discusses Knee Injury

Ben Simmons‘ inconsistent availability and underwhelming production has been a building source of frustration within the Nets‘ organization in recent weeks, according to Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell Charania and Amick that some Brooklyn coaches and players have been concerned about Simmons’ “availability and level of play” and that some have questioned his passion for the game. The report is similar to one from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski earlier this month.

Simmons, who made his regular season debut with the Nets last month after recovering from back surgery, has missed five games in recent weeks due to a left knee issue. When he has played, he hasn’t looked like his old All-Star self — up until Tuesday, when he scored 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting, the 26-year-old hadn’t scored double-digit points or made more than three field goals in any game this season.

Speaking to The Athletic, Simmons admitted that he’s aware of the criticisms being levied at him and understands them, but said that his physical issues – both the back and the knee – have significantly hampered him.

“You’re obviously not gonna be happy when anybody’s out,” Simmons said. “But for me, I’ve been dealing with the knee since the start of the season. It’s been swollen. I had PRP (injections). I had blood drained a couple times. So it’s not a made up thing, you know? It’s a real thing.

“… I’m on full overload with treatment, everything I need to do to stay out there. I’m just spending more time on the table, honestly, more downtime (where) I’m literally just leg up, icing, doing whatever I need to do – sleeping.”

Simmons said his back issues first flared up in February 2020, but that his back has been feeling much better since he went under the knife to address the injury.

“Yeah (the knee is a bigger problem than the back), which is good,” Simmons said. “And that’s one thing with the league. You’ll be starting to have some (trouble) with one thing and then you’re thinking about your ankle or your leg or whatever it is. That’s gonna happen, but getting it under control is the most important part for me.”

Simmons was the centerpiece of the trade package the Nets received when they sent James Harden to Philadelphia last season and was viewed as part of the team’s potential “Big Three,” alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The thinking was that Simmons’ defense and play-making would make him an ideal complement for two elite scorers like Durant and Irving.

However, Simmons hasn’t looked this season like the same player he was in Philadelphia. According to Charania and Amick, Markieff Morris spoke during a players-only meeting on October 29 about how the team needs Simmons to play at a high level and respond to adversity in order to succeed, and club officials and teammates have been in frequent contact with the former No. 1 overall pick to try to make him comfortable in Brooklyn.

After starting at point guard and averaging 31.8 minutes in his first six games this season, Simmons has come off the bench as a center in his four most recent outings, logging just 18.7 MPG. The Nets will need him to play a larger role to make a deep run in the postseason, and Tuesday’s performance provided a glimmer of hope. For his part, Simmons says he’s determined to get past his injury issues and help the team.

“I get (the skepticism), but I think the one thing with me is that I’m a competitor,” he told The Athletic. “I want to win and play. So I’m gonna do what I can to get out there.”

As Nick Friedell of ESPN tweets, Simmons told reporters on Tuesday that he also feels as if the rust from missing the entire 2021/22 season is coming off one game at a time.

“It takes time to build up,” Simmons said. “Especially with a nerve injury, it takes 18 months for your nerve to fully heal, and people don’t know that, but over time I get better and better. Just keep pushing.”

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